Trigger Warning: Child Death
The temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict ended after a week on Friday, December 1, with Israeli fighter jets hitting targets in the Gaza Strip. At least 21 Palestinians were killed across Gaza in the first two hours after Israel’s army resumed its attacks, Gaza’s health ministry said. Since October 7, at least 15,000 Palestinians, including more than 6,000 children, have been killed. As gruesome visuals of Palestinians slain in the Israeli airstrikes surfaced online, media outlet The Jerusalem Post and several other pro-Israel accounts alleged that Al Jazeera tried to pass off a doll as a slain Palestinian baby.
The Jerusalem Post published a report titled “Al Jazeera posts blurred doll, claims it to be a dead Palestinian baby”. “It is unclear if Al Jazeera had edited the footage themselves in an attempt to deliberately mislead the public or if they had shared the footage without properly researching the background”, the report said.
‘News agency’ Visegrád 24 also tweeted the same claim. “Al Jazeera published a photo of an emotional man holding a seemingly dead ‘baby’, with the baby’s face blurred. However, the blur only served to cover up the fact that the ‘baby’ is actually a doll”, they wrote. (Archive)
Verified handle @EndWokeness tweeted, “Shaun King just posted a video of a man in Gaza holding his dead grandson. 2.4M views and 157k likes in 3 hours. The only problem? The baby is a doll”. The tweet garnered 4.8M views. (Archive)
Shaun King is a writer and activist who posted the video on his Instagram account.
Self-proclaimed fact-checking organisation Israel War Room quote-tweeted the viral video and wrote, “That’s a doll”. They later deleted the tweet. (Archive)
Verified account RadioGenoa tweeted the viral video and asked, “Why do they use dolls?”. (Archive)
The video that is being widely circulated on social media is of an aged man holding the shrouded body of a child and speaking in Arabic. Some of the videos online contain the text “hani Abu rezeq”. Hani Aburezeq is the Palestinian journalist who captured viral video. Aburezeq had uploaded the video originally on Instagram, where he said that the infant had been martyred in the arms of his mother after their home in the Al-Maghraga area was bombed.
Instagram page @translating_gaza added English closed captioning to Aburezeq’s video. The man in the viral video is the baby’s grandfather who says, “…My daughter was breastfeeding her son, and there was nothing wrong with him. Suddenly, we were bombarded with artillery and tanks. We took the child, fled, and while on the way, we looked and found the child lifeless. We took him and rushed to Al-Awda hospital. From Al-Awda hospital, they told us this boy is deceased; go take him to Al-Aqsa Hospital. Then we brought him to Al-Aqsa Hospital. There, as you can see, this is Netanyahu, Netanyahu is bombing generations. He launches missiles fired from the nuclear reactor Dimona and Robin. Goes and gets them, and strikes them on Israel. This is the person launching missiles. Netanyahu, if you have a free and true army, then you can comfort the resistance. Don’t attack children, women and the elderly”.
Several Palestinian journalists captured the distressing scenes of the slain baby outside the Al-Aqsa Hospital. Journalist Ali Jadallah captured some images for the news agency Anadolu, which he posted on his Instagram account. Jadallah identified the baby as Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar, who was brought to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital by his mother Asmahan Attia Al-Zahar and grandfather Attia Abu Amra after the Israeli airstrikes in Deir Al-Balah.
Upon a relevant keyword search, we also found several pictures of the dead child on Getty Images, where it has been identified as Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar.
Arabian fact-checking outlet Misbar contacted Omar Al-Derawi, a Palestinian photographer who was also present at the scene. Omar confirmed that the video indeed showed the body of an infant at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital on December 1. Omar also identified the infant in the video as Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar, who died during an Israeli bombing of the village of Al-Mughraqa.
Omar has also posted distressing scenes of the slain child with its inconsolable grandfather and mother.
To sum up, media outlet The Jerusalem Post and several other pro-Israel handles on Twitter falsely claimed that the slain infant was actually a doll. In reality, Muhammad Hani Al-Zahar died while his family tried to flee its home in the face of Israeli airstrikes after a weeklong temporary truce ended on December 1.
This is not the first time a slain Palestinian child has been described as a doll by pro-Israel users during the ongoing war. On October 14, Israel alleged that Hamas was trying to deceive the public by passing off a doll as a slain Palestinian child. On X, the state of Israel’s official handle shared a video and a photo of the said ‘doll’. The footage actually showed four-year-old Omar Bilal Al-Banna who was killed in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, east of Gaza City. On October 12, Al Zaytoun was among the places hit by Israeli air strikes, alongside Al Nafaq, Sabra, and Tal Al Hawa, leaving 51 dead and 281 injured.
The amplification of such images/videos can be seen as part of a larger effort by Israel, and pro-Israel influencers and social media users to call into question Palestine’s claims of the human cost of the war on their side. Earlier, the official X handle of the state of Israel was found falsely claiming that a dead body is Gaza was moving its head. Again, Israel mocked a survivor of a July invasion by its forces of a refugee camp in West Bank by calling him an ‘actor’. In yet another instance, a Halloween image from Thailand was used by pro-Israel users to claim it was a ‘fake war victim’ from Gaza pretending to be dead. Another related story can be found here.
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